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How the forced budget cuts could affect you

Automatic spending cuts that took effect Friday are expected to touch a vast range of government services. Some examples:

Defense

One of the U.S. Navy's premier warships, the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, sits pier-side in Norfolk, Va., its deployment to the Persian Gulf delayed by President Obama. The carrier and its 5,000-person crew were to leave Feb. 8, along with the guided-missile cruiser USS Gettysburg. The Navy also began plans to gradually shut down four of its air wings -- which include 50 to 60 aircraft each and are assigned to the carriers -- and delay or cancel the deployments of several other ships.

Furlough notices will begin going out later this month to about 800,000 Defense Department civilians, who will lose a day's pay each week for more than five months. The U.S. Army will let go more than 3,000 temporary and contract employees and, beginning in April, it will cancel maintenance at depots, possibly forcing 5,000 more layoffs.

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the Navy's Blue Angels will cancel air show appearances.

Veterans' funerals at Arlington National Cemetery could be cut to 24 a day from 31, meaning delays in burials for troops from past wars. Troops killed in action in Afghanistan will be the priority -- they are usually laid to rest within two weeks, Army spokesman George Wright said. Overall, funerals would be reduced by about 160 a month because of furloughs among civilian employees who work with families to schedule services, as well as furloughs among crews that dig the graves and do other grounds work.

Pentagon investments in countering cyber threats and nuclear proliferation will be at risk, said Michael Vickers, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence. Also, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, said the agency could be hit hard because it depends heavily on military and civilian personnel to accomplish its mission.

U.S. Coast Guard rescue aircraft will fly fewer hours and its cutters will patrol the seas for fewer hours, said the USCG commandant, Adm. Robert J. Papp. Emergencies will be a priority and interdictions of illegal immigrants, drugs and illegal fishing could decline.

Homeland security

Documents reviewed by The Associated Press show that more than 2,000 illegal immigrants have been freed from jails across the country since Feb. 15. An Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman, however, said the number is in the hundreds. ICE officials said they had reviewed several hundred cases of immigrants and decided to put them on an "appropriate, more cost-effective form of supervised release" in a move started Tuesday.

Food safety

There could be an estimated 2,100 fewer food safety inspections and increased risks to consumers because of the cuts and the fact that lack of a 2013 budget means the Food and Drug Administration is held at last year's spending level. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said most of the effects wouldn't be felt for a while, and the agency won't have to furlough workers.

Health care

Hospitals, doctors and other Medicare providers will see a 2 percent cut in government reimbursements because, once the cutback takes effect, Medicare will reimburse them at 98 cents on the dollar.

They aren't complaining, though, because the pain could have been a lot worse if Obama and congressional Republicans actually had reached a sweeping agreement to reduce federal deficits. Automatic cuts that took effect Friday could reduce Medicare spending by about $100 billion over a decade. Obama had put on the table $400 billion in health-care cuts, mainly from Medicare. Republicans wanted more.

On the other hand, Obama's health overhaul law is expected to roll out on time and largely unscathed by the cuts. Part of the reason is that the law's major subsidies to help uninsured people buy private health coverage are structured as tax credits. So is the Affordable Care Act's assistance for small businesses. Tax credits traditionally have been exempt from automatic cuts.

Transportation

The nation's busiest airports could be forced to close some of their runways, causing widespread flight delays and cancellations. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood predicts that flights to cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco could have delays of up to 90 minutes during peak hours because fewer controllers will be on duty.

Despite the spending cuts, furloughs of controllers won't kick in until April, because the Federal Aviation Administration is required by law to give its employees advance notice. In addition to furloughs, the FAA has said it is planning to eliminate midnight shifts for air traffic controllers at 60 airport towers, including Yeager Airport in Charleston, close more than 100 control towers at smaller airports and reduce preventative maintenance of equipment.

National parks

Visiting hours at all 398 national parks are likely to be cut and sensitive areas would be blocked off to the public. Thousands of seasonal workers looking for jobs would not be hired, according to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Salazar and National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis said visitors would encounter locked restrooms, fewer rangers and trash cans emptied less frequently.

Federal workers

More than half of the nation's 2.1 million government workers might be required to take furloughs if their agencies are forced to trim budgets. At the Pentagon alone that could mean 800,000 civilian workers would be off for 22 days each, spread across more than five months -- and lose 20 percent of their pay over that period. Other federal agencies are likely to furlough several hundred thousand more workers.

Education

About 70,000 students enrolled in pre-kindergarten Head Start could be cut from the program and 14,000 teachers could lose their jobs. For students with special needs, the cuts could eliminate about 7,200 teachers and aides.

The Education Department has warned that the cuts will impact up to 29 million student loan borrowers and that some lenders might have to lay off staff or even close. Some of the 15 million college students who receive grants or work-study assignments at about 6,000 colleges also could see changes.

Congress

Congressional trips overseas likely will take a hit. House Speaker John Boehner told Republican members in a closed-door meeting that he's suspending the use of military aircraft for official trips by House members. Lawmakers typically travel on military planes for fact-finding trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan or other congressional excursions to foreign locales.

Nuclear security

Cleanup of radioactive waste at nuclear sites across the country could be delayed. The Energy Department said the cuts would postpone work at the department's highest-risk sites, including the Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland, Wash., where six tanks are leaking radioactive waste left over from decades of plutonium production for nuclear weapons.

Other high-risk sites that could face work delays are the Oak Ridge Reservation in Tennessee, Savannah River Site in South Carolina and the Idaho National Laboratory.

Tax collection

Any furloughs at the Internal Revenue Service will be delayed until summer, after the tax filing season ends, so tax refunds shouldn't be delayed, the agency said.

However, other IRS services could be affected. Millions of taxpayers might not be able to get responses from IRS call centers and taxpayer assistance centers. The cuts could delay IRS responses to taxpayer letters and force the agency to complete fewer tax return reviews, reducing its ability to detect and prevent fraud. The IRS said this could result in billions of dollars in lost revenue to the government, complicating deficit reduction efforts.

Labor

More than 3.8 million people jobless for six months or longer could see their unemployment benefits reduced by as much as 9.4 percent. Thousands of veterans would not receive job counseling.

Fewer Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors could mean 1,200 fewer inspections of dangerous work sites.


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